Tree Plantation Effort Can't Be Lost Despite Covid Outbreak

By Md. Zillur Rahaman

The government inaugurates the tree plantation season in June every year, and it continues till September. Tree fairs are arranged all over the country but this year due to Covid-19 outbreak, the tree plantation doesn't get momentum and right importance. What does not receive due attention during tree plantation is the importance of choosing the right kind of trees that can contribute both to plant-biodiversity and harbour plant.
Since the very beginning of the world, trees have furnished us with two of life's ingredients, food and oxygen. As we evolved, they provided additional necessities such as shelter, medicine, and tools. Presently their value continues to increase and more benefits of trees are being discovered as their role expands to satisfy the needs created by our modern lifestyles.
Due to heavy population pressure only 8% -9% of Bangladesh is now covered by trees and even that number is now decreasing due to the ignorance of people and lack of environmental awareness. Trees provide fuel, food for people and livestock, building materials, shade, soil fertility, and most importantly provide the oxygen for us to breathe in creating a lovely landscape and climate. We must accept that replanting trees is a national priority though many unscrupulous characters are indiscriminately felling down trees due to greed of money.
Trees are an important part of every community either town or village. Our streets, parks, playgrounds and backyards are lined with trees that create a peaceful, aesthetically pleasing environment. Trees increase our quality of life by bringing natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban settings. We gather under the cool shade they provide during outdoor activities with family and friends. Many neighborhoods are also the home of very old trees that serve as historic landmarks and a great source of town pride. Using trees in cities to deflect the sunlight reduces the heat island effect caused by pavement and commercial buildings.
The forest department seems to be counting the total forested area, which is around 8%-9% but should be about 25%. Only counting will not replenish the natural ecosystem, rather the forests should contain many types of plant species, especially indigenous ones, so that animal species specifically dependent on certain plants can survive. During tree plantation, we have to choose the best kinds of trees for planting.
We have committed mistakes in selection while planting saplings beside highways, city roads, garden and other places. The following kinds of trees should be planted during plantation-trees having fruit-bearing and timber quality together. Trees having appreciable timber value that grow fast. Trees that spread over large areas, produce fibre or cotton and having medicinal value.
Trees also contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people." Trees, shrubs and turf also filter air by removing dust and absorbing other pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. After trees intercept unhealthy particles, rain washes them to the ground.
Trees control climate by moderating the effects of the sun, rain and wind. Leaves absorb and filter the sun's radiant energy, keeping things cool in summer. Trees also preserve warmth by providing a screen from harsh wind. In addition to influencing wind speed and direction, they shield us from the downfall of rain, sleet and hail. Trees also lower the air temperature and reduce the heat intensity of the greenhouse effect by maintaining low levels of carbon dioxide.
Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) is building up in our atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing oxygen back into the area. Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases and in one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people. Trees cool the city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets. On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and hold soil in place. Trees reduce Ultra Violet Rays exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection to people in open outside.
Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe. Trees reduce the amount of storm water runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of flooding. Many species of wildlife depend on trees for habitat. Trees provide food, protection, and homes for many birds and mammals.
In the devastating 'Sidor' of November 15 of 2007 and in the ravaging 'Aila' of May 25 of 2009 the storms were resisted by the trees of Sundarbans which later on became weaker. Similarly the trees of Sundrbans played the role of a bulwark against the ferocity of the 'bulbul' hit in November 9, 2019 thus Bangladesh was saved incurring minimum losses of life and properties.
The recently hit super cyclone Amphan also entered Bangladesh and West Bengal through the Sundarbans and then hit mostly in Satkhira and South parts of West Bengal districts. The trees of forest reduced its wind speed and weakened it. That's why Bangladesh didn't face much casualties. It would have been worse if the cyclone came in without the resistance of the forest trees.
Monsoon is believed to be the best time for planting trees and the time between June-end and August is supposed to be the most appropriate as by then, the earth, which is dry and parched due to the scorching summers is able to absorb moisture and becomes more conducive for planting. If trees are planted in this period, the issue of water supply to these newly planted saplings or seeds is solved to a great extent because of the continuous rainfall.
So everyone should plant a tree this monsoon and contribute to a greener earth. Nobody should wait for government or NGOs to plant trees.
   (Md. Zillur Rahaman is a freelance contributor).